Blockbuster Showrunner Vanessa Ramos On Writing Workplace Comedies And That Finale [Exclusive Interview]
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Blockbuster Showrunner Vanessa Ramos On Writing Workplace Comedies And That Finale [Exclusive Interview]

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity. It contains spoilers for “Blockbuster” season 1.

First off: Where did the “ferret Waco” joke come from?

I think that was the first pitch I had in the room because Hollywood Harold was in my early pitch. It was pitched as a Timmy (Park) episode, but then it was the idea of, you find out Harold is a weirdo. There were just a ton of different things, like, “What authorities are describing as ferret Waco.” I think it was one of those pitches where you go, “Okay, obviously this is too crazy, not this but…” And then someone goes, “Well, why is it not that?” We just put it in and then Netflix lets us do it.

What were some of your earliest ideas for the show?

In the original pitch, it was Hollywood Harold and then the Halloween episode where they get busy with horror movie fans. Then the Block Party … I’m trying to think of some very weird ones. We’ve had a couple where I’m just like, “This isn’t a thing we can or should do” that we’ve had to talk ourselves out of doing. 

You do have some occasional strange, dark jokes. In the finale, there’s a certain director mentioned in a trivia question.

Oh yes. And then Timmy comes through the thing.

It caught me off guard, but that was great.

I was amazed they let us do that. I think it was a little — because I got my start in the Comedy Central Roast World, so it’s just writing mean, dark jokes for three weeks at a time about someone and then you come and do it again the next year. I think it’s nice to be able to scratch a little bit of that itch. The other stuff I’ve worked on has been very network comedies, but since it’s Netflix, you’re able to marry the two.

For Hollywood Harold, I think a lot of us remember our local TV movie critic. Was he influenced by anyone?

I grew up in San Antonio, and Texas has some real gems in the local entertainment scene. So he was an idea I had from the beginning that I was like, “Okay, I want to tackle this character. I feel like Timmy would have a relationship with him having been such a movie fan.” I think in my original idea, it was Timmy’s story and then as we started putting the pieces together, we’re like, “Oh, with Carlos’ immigration story and everything, it’s a better fit for that character.”

There are those moments as movie fans you can find relatable, like someone buying one ticket to “Space Jam 2.” We’ve all done that for some bad movie. In the writers’ room, were a lot of you sharing your moviegoing and rental experiences?

Oh, yes. Less so me. All of the jokes, like lot of Timmy’s takes, “I love bad dance movies,” that’s like me. I’ll be the one who’s paying to see “Space Jam 2.” Other people who are into arts here would come in, and it’s like, “Okay, did anyone watch anything this weekend?” And we have one of our writers who would describe whatever movie he saw. It was a lot of comparing notes and then sometimes we’d pitch, like, “Okay, is this Connie’s sensibilities?” And then we’d pitch on a couple more and, “Yeah, that feels like a thing Connie would’ve seen.”

How did the reference to “the feature film ‘The Da Vinci Code'” come about?

That one came off of my assistant Mary, who’s just the best. We were in the room and we needed a customer moment and [writer] Jackie [Clarke] was asking, “What’s the sequel to Da Vinci Code?” And Mary goes, “Well, actually it’s a prequel and it’s ‘Angels & Demons.'” She said exactly that. And then Jackie goes, “What was that again?” And she wrote word for word and put it in. We called the character “dork customer” for a good while and then changed it to Mary, of course, with Mary’s blessing. She’s thrilled. And then we were in the costume meeting and they’re like, “The customer, Mary, what does she wear? A K-pop T-shirt, grandpa’s sweater…” Basically, I describe what my assistant Mary wears. That’s how some of that stuff came about. When you’re talking about movies all the time, the stuff that seeps in is not as artsy or as refined as you think. It’s a bunch of very silly movies that we end up just amusing ourselves with.